Cardinal DiNardo congratulates 1,000 Hispanic women in educational program

June 12, 2018

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo processes in to celebrate Mass May 18 at the Catholic Charismatic Center for more than 1,000 Hispanic women participating in an educational program AMSIF that teaches them spirituality, family development, computer skills and other topics at churches in the Archdiocese. Photo by Jo Ann Zuñiga/Herald

HOUSTON — More than 1,000 Hispanic immigrant women were congratulated by Daniel Cardinal DiNardo for participating in an educational program as they also applauded 150 graduating May 18 at the Catholic Charismatic Center.

The five-year program, called the Association for Comprehensive Enhancement of the Family, is based in 26 parishes across the Archdiocese. Volunteer facilitators help the women learn to read, write and speak English as well as discover the importance of spiritual development, self-esteem, health exams and other classes. 

Known in Spanish as the Asociacion Mexicana de Superacion Integral de la Familia, AMSIF was founded by a group of Catholic laywomen in Mexico more than 40 years ago. It was introduced to the Houston-Galveston area in 2013 through the Archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry. Now more than 1,000 Houston-area women meet at Catholic churches as “Advancement Family Centers” in the Archdiocese.

First starting in Houston at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the program has quickly expanded and now St. Leo the Great Catholic Church and Prince of Peace Catholic Church have some of the largest groups of participants.

Cardinal DiNardo celebrated Mass and honored the participants completing the program.

“Congratulations on your graduation and thank all of you for deepening your faith by participating in this program,” he said in his remarks, both in Spanish and English. 

The program was introduced to help immigrant women achieve hope in both their spiritual and daily lives. Once a week, volunteer facilitators meet with participants and provide training in areas including spiritual development and applying the Gospel in everyday life, improving family communication, self-esteem, time management, cooking and nutrition, personal and family health, arts and crafts, English and basic computer skills. 

Facilitator Elena Agostino said, “Many of these women beforehand felt like they had no value or rights. The impact of this program is amazing because it helps the women become closer to God and enables them to be more understanding and caring towards their families.” 

Agostino, along with AMSIF regional coordinator Linda Maldonado, were among AMSIF women who traveled to Philadelphia in 2015 to see Pope Francis in his visit to the United States. In their white dresses with blue scarves, the group of women caught the eye of the pope and they met him personally where he prayed over them for their association.

“The Pope and his prayer were very moving and gave us incentive to continue our teaching,” Agostino said.

Maldonado said, “I have served in different apostolates, but serving as a woman, mother and daughter of God helping these women as sisters of Christ means so much to me. We all do it to share the love of God.”

Lazaro Contreras, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry which offers support to AMSIF, said, “We unite in joy for all the women who graduate from this program. They have persevered and committed themselves to learn, grow and share their many different gifts with their communities and in a special way with their families.”

“We also want to thank and congratulate all the AMSIF facilitators and volunteers for their love and dedication,” he said.

One graduate, among many who face personal hardships, said AMSIF helped her spiritually to survive depression and marital problems that led to serious health issues.

“I could hardly wait to go to classes on Thursday evenings. The great help that AMSIF gave me with the classes on evangelization, family and the workshop of the Holy Rosary have shown me how God touches my life,” she said.